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This report is taken from PN Review 249, Volume 46 Number 1, September - October 2019.

Speaking Seahorse Vahni Capildeo
During the record warmth and wetness of 2019, I have been writing with the sense of other people’s challenges, and female embodiment. A previous essay was guided by Adrienne Rich’s lone, heroic persona in Diving into the Wreck, who both seeks what treasure may be retrievable from a sunk craft, and questions its value. There followed a piece on Sumita Chakraborty’s Dear, Beloved, a transcendent lamentation in which a loving and violent sister harnesses the names of the moon’s seas as mares. The third and final reflection in this series is on Gail McConnell’s Fothermather, a vision of queer parenthood from the aptly named Ink Sweat and Tears. The many formal pleasures and the entanglement of present and future in Fothermather are accompanied by a needling vulnerability. This is a book of thoughtful welcome and letting-go, where language gives way to newness and wonder. Where Rich’s diver addresses nobody, the patriarchy, and all potential women writers, and Chakraborty’s cosmic yet personal focus can move from an astronomical object or geographical feature to a remembered lover or murdered sibling, McConnell is in dialogue with the idea of parenthood, and with her and her partner’s then-unborn son, ‘Finn, the brilliantist’.  

The Introduction to Fothermather notes: ‘My partner carried Finn in her body and feeds him with that body. I carried Finn the only way that I knew how – in my imagination and in the bodies of poems.’ This carrying is lived out in an astonishing series of nineteen poems, where the traditional literary equation between stanza and room, or the biologistic equivalence ...

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